Google’s driverless car: English lesson plan

Google's driverless car

You are going to view a presentation from Ted.com. 

Sebastian Thrun helped build Google’s amazing driverless car, powered by a very personal quest to save lives and reduce traffic accidents.

1. Questions:

Do you enjoy driving?
How much time do you spend driving in an average week?
Do you consider this a waste of time?
Have you ever seen a sci-fi film where all the cars were driverless?

2. Vocab & Phrases
Do you know these words?

a progress report
set it free
aspect of driving

We’ve encountered joggers, busy highways, toll booths,
in the loop
crooked Lombard Street
in San Francisco

the number one cause of death
due to human error
and not machine error, and can therefore be prevented by machines?

by a factor of two or three
precision on staying in the lane
wasting your time

3. You are going to watch a full presentation.
This listening is for general comprehension. Please try to take notes.

Questions 2.

1. Wheat was his motivation to start?
2. What is a progress report?
3. where can you use these machines?
4. What happened when the car did a stunt?
5. Whats the No.1 cause of death for young people?
6. What is the main cause of accidents?
7. What are the implications on city infrastructure ?

4. You are going to listen to the presentation again but this time with the transcript from the presentation.

Sebastian Thrun: Google’s driverless car

As a boy, I loved cars. When I turned 18, I lost my best friend to a car accident. Like this. And then I decided I’d dedicate my life to saving one million people every year. Now I haven’t succeeded, so this is just a progress report, but I’m here to tell you a little bit about self-driving cars.

I saw the concept first in the DARPA Grand Challenges where the U.S. government issued a prize to build a self-driving car that could navigate a desert. And even though a hundred teams were there, these cars went nowhere. So we decide at Stanford to build a different self-driving car. We built the hardware and the software. We made it learn from us, and we set it free in the desert. And the unimaginable happened: it became the first car to ever return from a DARPA Grand Challenge — winning Stanford 2 million dollars. Yet I still hadn’t saved a single life.

Since, our work has focused on building driving cars that can drive anywhere by themselves — any street in California. We’ve driven 140,000 miles. Our cars have sensors by which they magically can see everything around them and make decisions about every aspect of driving. It’s the perfect driving mechanism. We’ve driven in cities, like in San Francisco here. We’ve driven from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Highway 1.

We’ve encountered joggers, busy highways, toll booths, and this is without a person in the loop; the car just drives itself. In fact, while we drove 140,000 miles, people didn’t even notice. Mountain roads, day and night, and even crooked Lombard Street in San Francisco. (Laughter) Sometimes our cars get so crazy, they even do little stunts.

(Video) Man: Oh, my God. What? Second Man: It’s driving itself.

Sebastian Thrun: Now I can’t get my friend Harold back to life, but I can do something for all the people who died. Do you know that driving accidents are the number one cause of death for young people? And do you realize that almost all of those are due to human error and not machine error, and can therefore be prevented by machines?

Do you realize that we could change the capacity of highways by a factor of two or three if we didn’t rely on human precision on staying in the lane — improve body position and therefore drive a little bit closer together on a little bit narrower lanes, and do away with all traffic jams on highways? Do you realize that you, TED users, spend an average of 52 minutes per day in traffic, wasting your time on your daily commute? You could regain this time. This is four billion hours wasted in this country alone. And it’s 2.4 billion gallons of gasoline wasted.

Now I think there’s a vision here, a new technology, and I’m really looking forward to a time when generations after us look back at us and say how ridiculous it was that humans were driving cars.

Thank you.
Time 4:14

5. Discussion
Google is in the title but not mentioned in his speech, at what level are they involved?
How could this technology be linked with Google products?
How long would it take you to trust this car?
Would you prefer if everyone used this technology?
How will this change the insurance industry?
Do you believe that in 20 years we will all look back in time and “wonder why we drove cars”?
If we mix this technology with the iPhone4S “Siri” technology then we will be also talking to out cars in a few years. What do you think?

6. Post class work

This presentation from Ted.com is available with subtitles and we suggest listening 1 time with subtitles and then another time with the English transcript on the right hand side. Make notes of unknown words and phrases and try to guess their meaning from context.

Email question: How much gasoline is wasted in traffic in general?

7.Using new vocabulary

Please use the vocab from sections 1 & 2 in the following sentences:

Group 1
a progress report, set it free , sensors, aspect, joggers, busy highways, toll booths,
in the loop, crooked , stunts,

1. The _____________ between Barcelona and Madrid are very expensive.
2. Every ____________ of the new operating system is terrific.
3. After a short time in the vet hospital the staff _____________
4. Since October I have seen a lot more __________ on the streets-
5. Keep me ____________, I like to know what is happening in the tech world.
6. To launch this new product we need to think of a publicity _________
7. Could you give me a ______________ about the new iOS5 ?
8. Please redo the plans, the lines are _____________

Group 2
the number one cause, due to , by a factor of , precision , wasting , regain

1. ___________ the high cost of living in NY it is very difficult to find work.
2. ____________________ of inflation in the bubble in the property market.
3. I ____________ a lot of time watching TV.
4. I just started a new fitness _________
5. Economic growth decreased ______________ two in 2010.
6. The latest TAG watch is high tech, high ___________ watch.

8.Using the new vocab, discuss the following statements:

a). Monthly progress reports for the boss.
b). By the time I´m 70 I wont like all these new fancy technologies?
c). Men like useless gadgets, women like practical ones.
d). Technology is the only thing that can save the world.

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Justin Donlon

English Teacher & Content Developer Over 15 years of experience in engaging educational content

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